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Walk like a penguin: Avoid slips, trips and falls on ice

October 14, 2021
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Learning to walk like a penguin is one of the most effective ways to avoid slips, trips and falls on ice.

These charismatic creatures have a lot to teach us about navigating icy surfaces. And it just got easier to learn to walk like a penguin.

The new Pinnacol African Penguin Point at the Denver Zoo provides up-close views of 18 penguins playing, sunbathing — and doing their signature strut.

Pinnacol Safety Consultant Randy Philabaum shares tips on how to walk like a penguin and ensure a safer workplace this winter.

Walk like a penguin

Slips, trips and falls are top safety concern

Slips, trips and falls rank among the top workplace risks for Colorado businesses.

A recent study of Pinnacol's data claims from January, 2017, through March, 2021, found that 40 percent of all claims resulting from slipping.

"Slips and falls are the top risks for all industries we cover," says Philabaum. "It's one of those things that's universal. That's where we have the most injuries Pinnacol sees."

Those risks increase during the winter. Pinnacol found Jan. 9 is typically the "most dangerous day" for workers in Colorado".

On that day, Pinnacol claims data show an average of 198 worker injuries — a 62 percent increase over other days. Most of the injury claims involved slips, trips and falls on snow or ice.

Why should you learn to walk like a penguin

Walking like a penguin is one key to reducing the risk of winter workplace hazards.

Try these tips from our flippered friends for navigating ice surfaces:

  • Minimize distractions, like phones.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Put your arms out to the side for balance.
  • Take short, shuffling steps.
  • Go slow.
  • Walk flat-footed with your toes pointed out.
  • As you move, put your center of gravity over your front leg.

It may seem a little funny at first to walk like a penguin, but after a few practice rounds, you'll feel like a pro.

When communicating how to walk like a penguin to your workers, get your senior leadership involved and try these tactics:

Preparing for slips, trips, falls, and other winter hazards

Helping your employees learn to navigate slippery surfaces is just one aspect of developing a communications and safety plan for winter weather. Other strategies include:

Plan for all types of snow

Your severe winter weather plan should cover everything from flurries to major snow events.

Share your snow plan and ask for input

Make it easy for workers to share any hazards. Let them know to tell you immediately if they suffer an injury.

Be shovel ready

Before it snows, communicate your plan with vendors taking care of your parking lots or walkways so they know when and how often to plow or shovel, and where to place snow piles.

Stock up on ice melt

Consider providing bins of ice melt near slippery areas such as the parking lot or walkways for easy access.

Get out the mats

Put down heavy-duty rug mats inside the building along common walkways. Make sure the edges stay flat so you don't accidentally create a new tripping hazard.

Keep things dry

Consider placing fans or dryers around busy walkways and work areas inside the building on very wet days to help the floors dry faster.

Remember, the time to plan for snow is well before the first flakes appear.

"It's different for each workplace, but check out your grounds in the summertime," says Philabaum. "See where you'll place shoveled snow because it's going to melt at some point, and then it might refreeze. Figure out where's the best spot to place snow and where the water will drain."

Walk like a penguin at work, at home and at the Denver Zoo

If you need more inspiration to walk like a penguin, visit the Pinnacol African Penguin Point at the Denver Zoo and learn from the real experts.

"Safety doesn't start with the workplace," Philabaum says. "Share it with your family, with your friends, have some fun with the kids at home. Make it a habit."

Pinnacol Assurance has the largest and most experienced safety team in Colorado ready to help our customers identify and eliminate workplace hazards.
Contact a Pinnacol safety consultant to learn more.

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